Loco Mania Review (PC)

A game about trains. A game about getting trains around a track. A game in which you flick switches and give the green or red light for trains to go or stop. Are you enthralled yet? If this doesn't sound exciting to you, the game probably won't seem exciting either.

Toot Toot!

Keep it simple to start with...

Essentially, this is puzzle solving game. You have to get trains to their stops and out of the map as quickly as you can. How you do this is complicated by a 3D map, the fact that there are often several trains running at the same time, and those trains will often need to use the same tracks as ones that are already running.

The game play is probably this games greatest weakness and strength. The fact that this is a game about trains is almost irrelevant. It could be about planes, or fruit bats, or little fuzzy Martians and you'd have a very similar experience. That is, unless you're a train fanatic who has fantasized about being the fat controller for many years. The point is, this is a logical strategy game, and you are really just solving puzzles rather than doing much with trains at all. There isn't much variance in the trains themselves, in speed or model or make, which train enthusiasts would find a puzzling omission.

There are several maps to play on, which is rather nice. Each has a distinctive flavor, and gets
progressively harder as you go from level to level. The beginning maps only have a couple of tracks and a station or two, whereas the later ones bring with them a level of complexity that an LAX air traffic controller would have issues dealing with. There is also a pleasing variance in the environment you get to play in. There are rocky mountains and pastures green, snowy capped hills and quaint little towns.

There are four modes that you can play in, Time Attack, Checkpoint,Time Attack Unlimited and Free Play. Time Attack incorporates a tutorial which teaches you the basics of the game and how to control the camera. Camera controls are rather important, as you have to be able to quickly pan around the map and locate trouble spots, switches, lights, stations, etcetera.

Go on then, get a bit more complex...

Ever felt like you've been sucked into one of those creepy little to scale model worlds?

Time Attack Unlimited is largely pointless because it involves playing Time Attack, but without any goal score. This makes it somewhat like Free Play, except Free Play doesn't give you any points. One wonders what the point is of awarding points if there is no goal to achieve. Perhaps its another life metaphor, just one I don't get.

If you enjoyed train sets as a child, or if you still do now, this game will probably be greeted with a great deal of excitement. It's like having a massive train set with multiple environments and many trains, and a points scoring system to play it with, which is something missing from most real train sets.

Where I will give this game mad props (if you can do that with a train game) is where camera and map design come in. There is a very nice ability to be able to zoom right in on various trains and stops and things, as well as pull back and view a section of your map. If there was to be a criticism, it would be that you can't quite pan back enough to see the whole map, which can make things rather confusing.

In the absence of any multiplayer function, you can upload your scores to a server and compare them with the scores of others. This leads to plenty of fisherman's stories about the score that got away. “My computer crashed but my score, it was thiiiiissss big.”

In every mode the important thing is that you get the trains around that track quick quick quick. Time Attack involves you gaining points for every stop you make and every train you clear, all the while you loose points steadily. If you manage to make enough points, you win the game. It's like time really is attacking you. 

Checkpoint involves a timer counting down steadily whilst you frantically attempt to clear trains. Sort of like a metaphor for life, there is no getting out of this one successfully. You can stall things by making the stops at the right stations and clearing the trains as fast as possible, but eventually you're going to run out of time.

Graphically it's not bad, not brilliant, but not bad. The simplicity somehow captures the feel of a model landscape, so there is some feeling that your train set and display came to life and mutated into a pc game. The sound is equally serviceable. Essentially it does the trick without being outstanding in any way.

Trains, trains, everywhere...

Hmmm.. What is that model.. the high speed generic?

This is a train game where you won't learn anything about trains at all. This makes it a good choice for people who like puzzle games, and those who will buy anything with a train in it, but a poor choice for those who are looking for something that is actually about trains.

Top Game Moment: Figuring out how to flip that switch to make the trains go. That had me puzzled for a while. Remember, when in doubt, follow the tutorial.

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